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The Quest for Ancestral Faces

The Quest for Ancestral Faces is a multidisciplinary arts and science research project on the Canary Islands. Its purpose is to understand and illustrate the connection between their enigmatic, ancient population and the current inhabitants. The project explores Canarian identity, and includes forensic facial reconstructions, ethnographic photography and video conversations with geneticists, anthropologists and archaeologists. It seeks to establish a new link between populations separated by centuries, and deepen our knowledge of the heritage of the islands, in addition to being the largest facial reconstruction project ever undertaken from a single archaeological population anywhere in the world.


¨Someday, hundreds of years from now, our faces will be forgotten by those who look in the mirror thinking that they are unique, that there was never a similar gesture or a smile almost identical to theirs.  In this exhibition, everything that happens when one looks from one side of the room to the other can only be understood from the perspective of the human condition itself.  Contemporary faces and ancestral faces end up being confused in the genetics of time¨.                                   
                                                                                                                                                                                                              Santiago Gil                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Project trailer and information here



The Flagellants of Northern Spain

Once a year, during easter week in Northern Spain, penitents join a procession through the tiny village of San Vicente de la Sonsierra and flagellate themselves. San Vicente is the only village left in Spain still practising this custom after Franco banned it, managing to continue it even in his lifetime. 


Remains of a Journey

Left behind in the large cayucos or smaller pateras that brought them, the belongings of would-be immigrants from the Western shores of Africa to the Canary Islands remain deserted and forgotten.


A whirlwind lands on a cloud

In progress….

White Monks: A Life in Shadows

Of the Roman Catholic Order of Strict Observance, the enclosed Trappist community search for isolation and poverty in order to reach intimacy with God. An ancient way of life that is slowly disappearing, their seclusion and private contemplation is a living testament to lives devoted to spiritual service, in extraordinary counterpoint to the modern world.

          Read more

Canary Islands

Los Canarios

The beginnings of a practise-based research project that
seeks to investigate the roots of the ancient indigenous
population of the Canary Islands, and how they may relate
to current Canarian culture.

          Read more

This work has now evolved into The Quest for Ancestral Faces,
exhibited at El Museo Canario, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria,
14th December 2018 – 31st March 2019

               More on this project here

Now, then, here, there

A sample collection of individual black and white photographs taken on travels in Europe and the US.

          View the collection


Written in the Wind
Documentary (26 minutes) Spanish, English subtitles.

The existence of el Silbo, the whistle, is unique in Europe to La Gomera, one of the seven islands that make up the archipelago of the Canary Islands. Handed down through the centuries, the origins of this mystical language have disappeared into the mists of time, but the tiny island, with a population of only 20,000, is rugged and remote and communications over the landscape were difficult. The advent of modern times brought the threat of death to the language. Now this ancient and anachronistic tradition is being upheld and against the inexorable impingement of progress, a law has been passed that all school children from age six to fourteen learn to whistle.

Commissioned by Al Jazeera, Qatar. 
Winner of Best Short Documentary in Anthropology at The World Mountain Documentary Festival, Qinghai, China.


The Barber
Documentary (26 minutes) Spanish, English subtitles.

For almost a hundred years the barbershop has been at the centre of the local community in the village of Teror, Gran Canaria – a focal point that is now inexorably vanishing. Pepito, its eighty-two year old barber, is at the end of his working life, and although friends continue to visit, life in the shop slowly becomes much quieter. As he attends to fewer and fewer clients he spends more time alone.

Las Palmas de Gran Canaria International Film Festival. 4th – 13th March 2016.
Ethnocineca – Ethnographic and Documentary Film Festival. Vienna, 17th – 22nd May 2016
Days of Ethnographic Cinema. Moscow, 27th September – 1st October 2016
Kratovo Ethnographic Film Festival. Macedonia, 30th September – 2nd October 2016.
XXV International Festival of Ethnological Film. Belgrade, 12th – 15th October 2016
MiradasDoc. Guía de Isora, 27th January – 4th February 2017


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